Megha Singhal, a Human biology major, Global Health minor, and Aya Scholar awardee reports back from her experience in Panama with the Medical Brigades this summer. The Medical Brigades is a “student-run medical volunteer organizations that travel to developing countries to promote medical sustainability and provide free health care in communities without access to medicine otherwise. UCSD is one of the very first colleges in the U.S. to establish a Global Medical Brigade.”
The Medical Brigade in Panama was an extremely humbling, educational, and inspirational experience.
On the first day in the brigade, Megha first visited a community that developed their own community banking system with educational help from the Business Brigades, and learned how they profited as a community with only 7 members in their bank. She found their hard work inspiring, as they were trying to reach their goal of integrating more members in the community bank to help their town, including the school children. After this community experience, the rest of the day was spent packing donations for the clinical days.
The next four days consisted of clinical days in two communities. The first two clinical days were the most educational and inspirational for Megha, due to the connections she made with the community. In this experience, she even learned how to take blood pressure for the first time. In the Charla (educational workshop for the parents and children), the children had the best time, learning about brushing their teeth, and making connections with the rest of the brigade members. They played games with the children in the community and got to know most of them very well. The community were extremely grateful with how caring the team was since the brigade members helped them with their concerns, and explained reasons for certain measurements, instead of just performing the medical procedures and leaving the community.
In the second community, the experience was extremely humbling and equally educational for Megha. One of the other stations was consultation, where she shadowed the doctors as they talked to the patients and diagnosed them. While Megha was able to learn about multiple medical conditions and their causes, she also got to learn about the limits the brigade had as a pop-up clinic as they did not have enough medication for all the members, and there were certain conditions that the brigade simply could not help with. As an example, some women came to the clinic to have a pap smear done by an OB/GYN due to vaginal irritation, but there was nothing that the doctors were able to do except prescribe them medication. These instances were extremely humbling to Megha, leading her to realize how privileged people are in the United States to have hospitals/healthcare very close to homes.
As someone who comes from an under-resourced country, Global Health has interested me when I see the number of limited resources available to women and children in terms of sanitation and post-pregnancy care. The clinic furthered my aspiration to work in Global Health in the future as an OB/GYN in the field to help these women, and help develop long term solutions for them in their community for their health.
Thank you Aya Healthcare for the funding that allowed Megha to participate in this Medical Brigade and learn about the healthcare system in under-resourced countries first handedly.